‘Give me a flat’ plea of last man in street cleared by HS2
Controversial high speed rail work has destroyed community around Euston, says carpet fitter
15 June, 2018 — By Tom Foot
A HOUSE of Commons carpet fitter living alone in a “ghost town” created by the High Speed 2 rail line development has been threatened with eviction – and has nowhere to go.
Bartley Robbins, who has lived next door to the former Bree Louise pub since the 1980s, is the last resident left in Cobourg Street, Euston, as buildings are boarded up ahead of a date with HS2’s bulldozers. Mr Robbins, 55, is in dispute with the council after not being offered a replacement home.
The Town Hall says he is “trespassing”, a claim hotly disputed by his long-term neighbours. Bree Louise landlord Craig Douglas said Mr Robbins’ treatment was a “disgrace”. Several others have contacted the council pleading for a compassionate approach.
Mr Robbins said: “This was a wonderful place to live for me. We used to drink at the Bree. I’ve known Craig and Karen for 15 years – they are more neighbours than landlords. “We knew the homeless people from around there too – I’ve been to three homeless funerals this year. I felt I was very well known around there. It was a great community but now it’s gone because of HS2 – and I hate it.”
Mice and rats have been driven into his home by construction work. There was a fire in an empty property last month.
Although Mr Robbins has been paying rent and council tax for the property for years, the tenancy was in the name of his former partner, who has gone back to Scotland. He said: “The council say they cannot find my name but that is not my fault. Well, who do they think has been paying them council tax and rent all these years? “I just want a replacement flat like my neighbours have had. That is all I’m asking.”
Dozens of tenants and leaseholders have already been moved out of homes in Euston Street, Cobourg Street, Cardington Street and Drummond Street into newly-built replacement housing squeezed onto greens and children’s play areas on the Regent’s Park estate. A small number of long-standing residents have slipped through the compensation system. The HS2 project, a £56billion railway from Euston to Birmingham and northern cities, will mean 17 years of construction work in Euston. St James’s Gardens has already been sealed off while HS2 archaeologists exhume the remains of tens of thousands of bodies buried in the former church burial grounds. The Bree Louise closed in January.
Mr Douglas, its former landlord, still hasn’t got compensation despite five months without an income. He said: “Bartley Robbins was living next to the Bree Louise when we bought it 17 years ago as the Jolly Gardeners. He was a regular in the pub and became and still is a friend. As a carpet fitter he fitted our first new carpet in the bar. I think what is happening to him is a disgrace. He’s paid his dues, council tax and rent.”
Craig and Karen Douglas ran the Bree Louise before they were forced out in January
Lawyers at Hodge Jones and Allen, based close to the development area, are looking at the case and MP Keir Starmer’s office is also aware of the situation.
Councillor Meric Apak, cabinet member for better homes, said: “The work has already begun to rehouse all eligible council tenants who will lose their homes and we have led the way in seeking appropriate compensation for those affected. As a responsible landlord, we actively ensure that those who are most vulnerable and in need, regardless of their circumstances, are dealt with as a priority.”
HS2 leaves man homeless ‘and in a dark place’
A VULNERABLE man forced out of his home of 15 years by HS2 fears losing a crucial support network.
Leon Thomas, 53, had to leave the two-bedroom flat in Ainsdale on the Regent’s Park estate on Tuesday. Unlike most of his neighbours, he is not being found a replacement home in Camden.
Mr Thomas said: “I am being made homeless by HS2 and the council. HS2 is knocking down my home and the council won’t find a home for me.”
Three blocks – Silverdale, Ainsdale and Eskdale – on the estate are being knocked down. Under terms of the HS2 project, tenants and leaseholders are being offered replacement homes in new blocks built on small greens and children’s play areas on the estate. The offer does not apply to Mr Thomas because he was renting his property privately.
Mr Thomas said: “We’ve all been living with this uncertainty [about HS2] for so long, but now it’s happening. “I’ve been worried about it, but I’ve been here so long I thought they’d get me a little one-bedroom or something. They won’t even put me on the housing list – they cut me off that when they changed the rules.” His eldest son, Matt, said: “The stress and worry of becoming homeless has put him in a real dark place. The only support that has ever helped him through his hard times are his friends on the estate and myself.”
Housing chief Councillor Meric Apak said: “We have provided advice and guidance to those who rent privately to secure alternative accommodation. If any resident fears they may be made homeless, they should contact us so we can assist.”